Food, Kenya Style

So this week I thought I’d do something totally different and let you in on our eating habits here in Kenya.  Nairobi is a modern city so we don’t have to cook goat over an open fire, although we’ve had it, and it tastes really good. Of course watching the goat get killed and sliced up isn’t so pleasant.

In Sydney we would live on BBQ’s most nights with chicken in between. To buy a BBQ here we have to pay out around $800, not a top priority but we wish it were.  Barbequed meat is much better than that done in a frying pan. When we first moved here Pete conquered a charcoal BBQ but I think our neighbours might not be so enthusiastic about the smoke, but man did the food taste good!

A frozen chicken costs about $8 and it’s pretty straight forward to throw it in the oven to roast. But I’ve learnt, thanks to Google, how to make chicken pilau. According to the locals it tastes more like a biryani (Indian) but they think it was cool that I actually tried. They must’ve liked it because three people took the leftovers home. I also like chicken pad thai but Pete’s not really a noodle fan so we can’t have it too often. He’s more of a meat and three veges guy.

pilauI’ve also learnt how to make kachumbari. It kind of looks like bruschetta but better and you don’t have it on a slice of French stick, you can have it with anything. I found this recipe but apparently it’s not very Kenyan. Firstly you need to soak the red onion in salty water to take out the bitter taste. You’re also meant to add spring onion and white vinegar to give it a kick. Lucy, one of my co-workers made some and it was much better than mine.

kachumbariUgali is one of our least favourite dishes. Pete refuses to eat it, that’s because he hasn’t has a good version of it. Basically it’s maize flour and water, with a touch of salt. No, it’s not a homemade recipe for glue, I’ve made that one. Ugali is a staple food here, especially if you’re in poverty. It is totally non-nutritious but here the thinking is that if you don’t go to bed with a full feeling then you haven’t eaten enough. Ugali just sits in your stomach. I got Tinga, a young man who was staying with us one weekend, to show me how he made ugali and it wasn’t half bad. Still, I only eat it when I have to.

imagesGitheri is probably one of the hardest meals to handle. I’ve never had it with meat, simply with beans, maize and tomatoes. Again, Pete refuses to eat it, mainly because he needs serious dental work on his back teeth. It’s borderline okay when it’s hot but as soon as it starts to cool down it is so hard to handle. Also, my stomach reacts badly to it, to the point I can’t have it any longer.

githeriBefore coming here I never really was a coffee nor tea drinker, only when I had to. Each Thursday I go to our training facility in Kiserian (an hour away) to teach a class of boys. There we get black tea, as milk is too expensive. Here, Kenyans love their sugar. It is not unusual to have a cup of tea with 3 – 6 teaspoons of sugar in it. I’ve even got a small taste for very weak lattes. I can say I even enjoy a coffee from time to time. Mind you, at Dormans (a café) they have this delicious gluten free brownie, the only place in the whole of Kenya, which helps the attraction to coffee.

So overall, there is plenty on offer here. You can buy bananas for 5 cents each, fruit and veges are cheap, meat isn’t. There are hundreds of cafes and restaurants to choose from. Food in Nairobi is much more expensive than out of town. On Sundays after church we go to Galitos for chicken and chips. If we wanted pizza – it’s the in thing here and you can get a family size pizza on Tuesdays for $7. There’s even a place to buy frozen yoghurt – we’ve been there once with visitors who had kids, nice but so jolly expensive.

You will never starve in Africa as long as you’re not fussy. We miss real cream, cheese that has flavour and veges that you don’t have to soak in a special cleaner. But, we do have lots to choose from as you’ve seen.

Home and Away

I’ve tried all I can to call Kenya home but it’s not quite working. I thought if I put it into my head that this was ‘home’ it would happen automatically, but it hasn’t. I still call Australia home. While we will always consider ourselves Kiwis, we see ourselves as more honorary Aussies. Of course, when it comes to the rugby we always love the haka. Our 11 years in Australia were some of the best we’ve ever had.

It’s not a bad thing though, pretty much all expats have a place they call home, but that’s because they’re only here for 2 or 3 years on assignment. For us, as long as the money lasts, we’re here.

It’s been nearly 9 months since we’ve been in our own place. For a month our Aussie mum put us up at her place, then we spent a month in the US before coming here to Nairobi. We’ve been house sitting since then. Getting into our own house is pretty important. I was so over having our stuff in boxes that I just had to get some small things out. Some have been packed since a year ago!

A place can be a house but definitely not a home. I’m hoping when we find a place next week that we can really make it our own. It was way too expensive to bring many belongings with us from Aussie so it was just a few mementos and kitchen gear. Everything else we had to start from scratch.

Between the time we came in 2011 and then again in 2012 living costs had pretty much doubled. Still, we press on.

There’s been some challenges to even finding a place. Twice now we’ve been promised an apartment and it’s fallen through. Apparently on the 28th we’ve been guaranteed a 3 bedroom apartment just up the road from the office. I’m not into crossing fingers but I really hope we get it. The owners of the house we’re in are coming back from New Zealand in exactly 2 weeks and we also have some Kiwi friends coming for a week. So, we’re cutting it pretty thin.


The actual apartment we hope to get.

At this stage we’ll be sleeping on airbeds, but that’s okay, we’ve done it before.

Thanks to some generous friends we will have a couch to sit on! As I’m writing this blog our builder is sitting in our lounge drawing what he’s done. It was meant to be finished tomorrow, but in good Kenyan time it’ll be next week. We are so grateful for all of our supporters we really could not be here without them. When renting an apartment here you even have to supply your own gas oven, known as a ‘cooker’ here. I guess that’s because people steal them when they leave.

One of the reasons we are here is to host the many international visitors who come to Kenya to look at the work we are doing. Every month for the rest of the year we get the great pleasure of having people in our home, whether it be just for one night or seven. In fact, one couple arrive just a few days after we hopefully move into our home! I love having people at our place, whether they are a local or a visitor. To us it’s really really important to have a nice place that people can call their second home.

Thankfully it’s not over the top expensive to get furniture made. The same lounge suite we wanted in Sydney is about ¼ of the price to be made here and we only have to wait a week for it. To get a bed made takes around 4 days.

Hence, we’ve started a campaign called ‘House our Home’ to give people an opportunity to partner with us to make our new house (actually an apartment), our home. Check out the link HERE which has a whole list of things people can donate towards. The cool thing is that it doesn’t matter if you’re in Australia, the US or the UK, it’s tax deductible, sorry about the rest of you though!

I’m hoping that when we get into our own place that we’ll feel like this could become our home. We’re not ready to go back to Australia yet, but I think I’ll always call it home (of some sort anyway).